Most modern training programs are variations on the same scientific themes. You take a human body, and measure its capacity. Then you subject it to repeated, measurable stresses, rest, recover, repeat. After a sufficient duration of this pattern, you test the body again, and if the program was effective, you have a quantifiable improvement.
This is a great way to do science, but is it the best way to build capability? Will your back squat translate to escaping a burning building? Will your 5k time keep you from falling down the stairs? The only honest answer is “maybe.” And no honest coach would assert that their specific strength and conditioning programs will develop your entire range of human capability and capacity. So what does “fitness” really mean, if we’re only going to target a percentage of what your body was built to do?
The functional fitness movement has been an effort to answer that question, but it still relies on largely the same tools. A perfectly flat gym floor, perfectly symmetrical weights, smooth, constant-diameter bars, and repeated, measurable stresses. While it looks different at first glance, functional fitness falls into many of the same old traps.
Danny Clark is the performance director for MovNat, a comprehensive training system whose core philosophy is that if you want to develop the most capable humans, you should regularly engage the broadest possible range of their capability. To do that, says Danny, you need to get out of the gym humans built, and into the gym that nature has always provided.
He sat down with me to discuss MovNat’s origins in evolutionary history and the advent of physical culture in France in the early 1900s. We discuss the costs of the rapid advance of technology on our physical utility, and how true movement competence comes from engaging our natural environment. He explains how his martial arts experience informed his thoughts about movement quality, and how his frustration with the inability of typical gym exercises to address the complex needs of his clients led him to a beach in Mexico. Last, we cover some easy and practical ways to incorporate natural movement into your existing fitness practice.